Two Big Lessons from CES 2011: Friction and Inspiration

Every year the hope about CES is that it will be a sea of innovation. It usually is. The only question is whether it will be a sea of big waves of industry changing breakthroughs or small waves of incremental improvements. This year we saw small variations on Apple's iPad (in some 80 tablets), and similar size advances in touch and gesture control, large scale advances in image quality and more strides in changing dimensions; thinner and bigger flat panel TV's, and ever smaller devices that fit in our pockets.

The most prevalent innovation theme that ran through the show this year though might have been "convergence." For instance:

1. AMD introduced Fusion APU which combines the capability of powerful GPU's (graphics processors) with computing capabilities of CPU's for amazing visual and functional results. See AMD Fusion at CES

2. Motorola introduced the Atrix phone, essentially a computer in a phone that converts to a laptop experience and also acts as a media server driving home TV's. (See the video below) It allows us to consume media seamlessly from mobile phone activated outside the home to TV inside the home, to laptop-like device everywhere in between.

3. LG showed off its Touch TV with which you can "draw" on the TV screen with a stylus creating art, interacting with programs and games, and navigating the web. 

These particular forms of convergence draw us like a magnet. Why? Two reasons: Reduction of friction, and increase of Inspiration:

1. Reduction of friction: our lives are full of tasks large and small, with each one having it's own outline or perimeter around it. Erase the lines between two or more tasks (like talk on the phone while shopping for whatever it is we're discussing with our significant other) and we're eliminating some of the friction of life. A lot of what we saw at CES this year was about eliminating friction. Eliminating friction creates ease, and the more ease, the more that attracts us. Perhaps no example was more stunning than Motorola's Atrix smart phone. For underlying technology that reduces friction for better computing experiences, AMD's Fusion APU is equally note worthy.

2. Increase of inspiration: Inspiration often occurs when suddenly we can do something we've never been able to do before. Take LG's touch TV; it allows us to draw right on the televised image in a nearly limitless range of creative and interactive experiences. In the beginning of TV it was often called the electronic babysitter, but in a derogatory way; children watching mindless programming designed to sell them sugary treats. Now, with LG's touch plasma TV, the device can babysit while educating through hands-on interaction that allows kids to play games that teach them math. Brilliant, and but one example of what they've packed into this device.

What do these two principles offer experience marketers? Two things. 

  • First, spend some time thinking about how you can use the above named technologies in staging your experiences. Technology can be a powerful enabler of media in marketing experiences and when they are as smart as those mentioned here, the technology disappears (just like the seams) and the subjects of the media are free to shine. If "innovation" is one of your brand attributes, just providing the media experience through innovative means starts to embed this attribute in your audiences' mind as one that's true about your brand.
  • Second, ask yourself what you can do to eliminate the friction in your marketing experiences while enabling new activities. Count the steps it takes from the start of your experience to the finish and see if you can reduce the number. Ask yourself how you can give people the experience of something about your brand they've never had before. A simulated but authentic experience of life improved by your brand? A live data map of an improved transaction process? A live video chat with other users of your product? Reducing friction and increasing inspiration creates impact and buzz, the kind that generates tons of earned media. It's a great way to create experience-driven brand engagement.

What are your favorite brand experience or brand experience marketing examples of reducing friction and increasing inspiration? Share your comments here.

1 comment:

  1. "Take LG's touch TV; it allows us to draw right on the televised image in a nearly limitless range of creative and interactive experiences."

    Wow! I may have to invest in one of these. As an increasingly long in the tooth Boomer raised on Winky-Dink in the 1950's but denied the official kit by frugal parents, the desire to draw all over a TV screen is nothing short of primal. Talk about powerful brand experience - this brand has been resonating with its original audience since 1953, long after the actual product disappeared. (For all you puppies out there who have no idea what I'm referring to, go to Glad to have lived long enough to be able to draw on a TV screen again without getting my bottom smacked for trashing the screen, the rug and my clothes with greasy crayons! Note for the record: a smack in the tuchus was not considered child abuse 57 years ago, just standard parental discipline for willful acts of property destruction...

    Thanks for the incisive insights on CES and I look forward to following the blog. Who knows what I'll learn about next that will assuage the longing of even more childhood dreams denied? :)